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|CITY FALL AT THE FIRST HURDLE
Nationwide South club St Albans City fell at the first hurdle in the Herts Charity Cup on Wednesday night, having built a somewhat flattering 2-0 lead at half-time but then conceded three second half goals to a full-strength Ryman League Premeir Division Boreham Wood side who impressed throughout.
With their first game in the inaugural Nationwide South to come on Saturday, City manager Steve Castle took the opportunity to test triallist centre backs Ben Martin and James Smith in a youthful back-line completed by Jake Attwood and Matt Jones from last season's successful reserve side.
There was experience up front, however, with the fan's favourite Gary Crawshaw and former Saint Spencer Knight given a full run-out. The manager's problems on the night came from the midfield, which was over-run by the visitors in the second period of the game.
In an entertaining opening period, chances were created at both ends. For the visitors, the Robbie Reinelt failed to hit the target with two volleys in successive minutes before Crawshaw converted a Knight cross in the 13th minute only to be denied by the offside flag.
City took the lead 2 minutes later when Daniel McBreen, who has impressed pre-season, exchanged passes with Matt Hann just outside the area before rounding his man at pace and hit a firm drive low to Noel Imber's right.
The visitors responded with a sustained period of attacking play during which they had two penalty appeals denied when first Reinelt, and then winger Stuart Lochhead were sent tumbling by last-ditch tackles in the home box. New signing Mel Capleton in the City goal showed his pedigree with fine saves from Lochhead and Danny Cowley and the post denied a Sammy Winston (pictured) effort.
The Saints extended their lead on 35 minutes when Hann beat the impressive Sherwin Stanley on the right before cutting inside to hit a low pass to Crawshaw who hooked a first-time shot over Imber from 12 yards.
The visitors started the second period with purpose and reduced the arrears on 57 minutes when, after a goalmouth scramble, Lochhead back-heeled a loose ball beyond the despairing fingertips of Capleton into the empty net. The Wood were in control of the midfield with the City strikers increasingly isolated and the equaliser came 9 minutes later. A deep cross from the left was headed into the area by Ryan Moran, another former City favourite, to be met by Winston's head from close range which gave Capleton no chance.
With extra-time loomng, the visitors deservedly secured victory in the 90th minute when a Fergus Moore free-kick was well met by Lochhead with a glancing header beyond the full stretch Capleton. (www.sacfc.co.uk)
In a pre-season friendly, ICIS Midland Combination club Meir KA worked hard in the opening 45 minutes to keep UniBond League Premier Division side Leek Town at bay in the Blues' first ever visit to Hilderstone Road but they could do little in the second period as the visitors ran in four goals with out reply.
In an incident packed game, Leek keeper Steve Hodgson had to be alert to keep his goal intact when he bravely dived at the feet of Adam Sawyer and then Darren Johnson's before Alex Brown curled a shot inches wide at the other end.
Leek then posted warning of their intentions when Brown had an effort cleared off the line and Martin Ridley saw his drive on the half hour cannon back off the upright.
Ridley then drove in a free kick that Brown got on the end of but Phil Hughes pulled off a superb save to deny him.
Tempers boiled over shortly before the break but veteran referee John Hilditch used all his experience to stamp his authority and defuse the potentially ugly situation.
After Dave Whittaker rattled the upright from just inside the box, Meir struggled to contain a lively Leek outfit and they fell behind in the 59th minute when Dave MacPherson rose to a corner from Brown to plant a firm header into the back of the net.
The same players combined again just five minutes later when MacPherson headed home from Brown's free kick wide on the right.
Leek keeper Hodgson had a rush of blood midway through the half racing from his area to get in two timely tackles but Guy Martin was unable to take advantage, firing wide from 30 yards out.
Steve Taaffe teed up Brown for Leek's third and Taaffe himself completed the scoring with a low shot from the edge of the box after Whittaker set him up. (Michael Cope)
UniBond League First Division club AFC Telford United eased past Market Drayton Town in their final friendly before the league campaign kicks off a week on Saturday.
United were two up by half time thanks to two well taken goals by Luke McNally.
The first came after a neat low cross from triallist defender Duane Courtney found McNally on the edge of the home side's six yard box, and his neat finish eased just inside Drayton 'keeper Price's near post to give United the lead.
The home side responded well and will probably feel hard done by when, after the home team's hapless strikers contrived to miss several good chances to level the tie, United broke away and scored a killer second goal just before half time.
Tolley's lay off found Craven in acres of space down the left wing, and his inch perfect cross was nodded home by McNally, who took his tally to three goals in two games.
Market Drayton started the second half brightly, and dominated posession for an early spell. Stuart Brock made several excellent stops to preserve his clean sheet before United regained a foothold in the game.
There was still no way through for the home side however, and United made them pay for their lacklustre display in front of goal five minutes before time, when they grabbed a fortuitous third.
Aaron Lloyd's tame 20-yard shot appeared to be tricking into the substitute 'keeper's hands when the unfortunate youngster appeared to lose his footing, allowing the ball to trickle tamely through his legs and over the line to initial amusement of a good sized travelling contingent from Telford.
Three-nil was how it stayed and AFC Telford's next fixture will be in the UniBond League at the New Bucks Head against North Ferriby United. (www.telfordutd.co.uk)
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